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Pale Moonlight (IC)

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January 15, 2013


"...and there are even rumors, my friends, of Terminus mutants so powerful that they can enter our minds and control our thoughts, taking away our God-given free will. Now I think the American people deserve the right to decide if they want their children to be in school with Terminus mutants. To be taught by Terminus mutants! Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that Terminus mutants are very real, and that they are among us. We must know who they are, and above all, what they can do!" Aaron Walsh's rallies are always raucous affairs, the blue-collar Freedom City Congressman being something of a political showman. But something has happened recently, perhaps in the wake of his recent election, that's given the Congressman's simmering anger at the world outside South Freedom a particular focus. "Am I saying we should _abandon_ these people? That we should turn our backs on the _victims_ of Omega? No!" That silenced the crowd in front of him, a mixed bunch of Bayview locals who for a moment looked like they were ready to go beat up a T-baby or two. "Many of you, my friends, have lost family, or friends, to the forces of the Terminus. The wounds left on our bodies, and in our hearts, can't be healed as easily as those fixed up by Dr. Metropolis. The national T-Census will not only help keep us safe by letting us know the strength and power of the T-mutant problem, but it will also be the first step to finding a cure. So that our sons, our daughters, our friends and our family, can live free from the Terminus. Now and forever, I make you that my pledge! No! More! Terminus!" He pounded on the dais and the crowd roared. Maybe this wasn't how they had planned to spend Croatian Independence Day, but Walsh's charisma had swept the audience along anyway.

Across the street, a less-friendly crowd, mostly college kids and hero groupies, had taken the other angle. "No more Walsh! No more Walsh! Take your hate back home!" The campus radicals are a plucky bunch to be out here in a Freedom City January for the sake of a protest against one of the most controversial men in Freedom City, bundled up beneath parkas and breath turning to steam. They waved banners high and chanted, "All heroes welcome! All heroes welcome!" The mood between the two crowds was getting ugly, especially with rumors that at least one T-baby group had put a hit out on the life of the Congressman. Walsh didn't seem to fear the danger, though, standing alone on the stage as he whipped up the crowd of his supporters, his wife, son, and traveling party guarded by uniformed Freedom City cops among the honored guests at the celebration.

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Standing in the street Blodeuwedd mused about when this actually became part of her normal routine.

Yet here she was waiting in case trouble started. She’d considered a number of options, but considering the security situation and the feeling toward any heroes showing up in costume would be a bad idea.

So today she was Gwen Cooper slightly hassled reporter who had been sent by her editor at the last minute, hence her gym bag (which concealed all her equipment), to cover the protest. For now she was content to chat away with the cop waiting for something to happen.

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Tona Baudin was part of neither group. The young woman stood off to the side, observing both groups, trying to write down everything both sides said while still trying to catch the reaction of the crowds. She didn't normally follow politics, she didn't pay attention to the greater world outside her interests. Which is why she'd been saddled with extra civics homework, covering this political rally-slash-debate.

The only problem was, Tona had no idea how to handle two people yelling their points into the air at the top of their lungs. She wondered if it would all be faster if the two representatives would just charge out into the middle and fight it out, but she supposed that's what all the yelling was supposed to avoid. She sighed and made use of a brief break in the angry speech-making to rotate her aching hand, then bent over her writing again.

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Kat was in civilian garb. No need for her to pretend to be anything special; she was a teenager satisfying morbid curiosity was all. And if she'd taken up position near an alley where she could run in and out of sight, well, it was just that she'd happened to be standing there.

It was a good lie, with enough of the truth in it to fool most people if they bothered asking, but she didn't think they would. Kat breathed warm air onto her hands and rubbed them together. It would be nice if everyone just left for home in about an hour and had nothing better to talk about tomorrow than how rude the other protestors were.

He kept on preaching the same own song and dance. Warp had heard it all before, by conspiracy nut blogs and big-shot news articles; think of the children, don't we have the right to say if T-babies are near our loved ones, make our nation safe again, that sort of thing. Kat heard what he didn't say loud and clear; kick T-babies out of public service jobs. Kick them out of school too, maybe. Kat hunched her shoulders and bit down on the inside of her lip.

She could laugh at a dozen thugs in an alley, but watching the crowd stir to Walsh's provocations made the social creature inside her whimper and cringe. Just a curious teenager, Kat reminded herself, stuffing both hands into her pockets and blowing air out her nose.

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Several yards away and leaning slightly on the adjacent wall, Subito unconsciously pulled at a loose thread in his worn flannel shirt as he stared at the elevated figure of Walsh, wishing that he had brought a thicker coat. The stocky teen had arrived shortly before the Representative's rally had begun, thinking to defuse any attempts at turning the event violent before it began. He'd quickly realized much to his chagrin that any trouble was most likely to start after tempers were high, and once the area round the distinguished and voluble man had become so crowded with his chanting, unnervingly attentive audience that it made his ears ache with the din, he had gradually retreated to across the street, furious at his weakness. 'This shouldn't matter! I should stay there, I- It will do no good to become so distracted you cannot act when called for. Go hence'

At the shouts of "All heroes welcome! All heroes welcome!" scarcely twenty feet from where he stood, his eyes flicked over to the smaller counter-protest with a scowl that he hastily fought back into smooth and studied indifference. They trusted their heroes, but this...didn't seem like it would help anyone, blind hatred on one side, blind acceptance on the other. He crossed his arms over his chest, wishing fervently that he had instead come in costume. He glanced over at Kat nearby, remembering why he hadn't done so. He had taken up position nearby his classmate partially as a sign of solidarity, and also so that they could work in tandem in case things came to a head. Scuffing the frosty ground and letting loose a sudden blast of steam from his mouth, hoped it wouldn't come to that 'Maybe this time, it will just be that old jackass ranting away at something he doesn't know anything about, and we can all go home and nobody has to get in danger...hey, is that Tona?' he almost started from the wall when he caught sight of the young archer, raising his eyebrows in surprise at her furious note-taking, reclining back against the wall with a shrug and a wry smile 'Heh! I guess teach thought this would be a good learning opportunity about a world like ours. Not often we get politics right here on our doorstep!'

Subito had a decent enough understanding of politics and political systems, and everything he knew about them was baffled at Walsh's success. He had come to the rally with the hope that hearing the man speak would give him a clue. Listening with a grimace to the fresh wave of paranoia-mongering and the idea of singling out T-mutants for special attention, he wished he had never known. Catching sight of a reporter chatting with one of the police officers that were keeping a certain distance between the parties, he was struck by a strange sense of recognition and familiarity with the way she was moving, something about the way she held herself...he shrugged it off. 'Must've seen her on TV sometime ...You have much work ahead of yourself, Herald'

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Walsh was just getting warmed up when the microphones went dead with a brief whine of feedback and whisper of static. The Congressman was too much the old-time orator to be put off by such a problem, so with a smile he stepped away from the podium, pointed to his lapel mic, and was about to continue when another voice broke in.

"People of Freedom City! We have taken control to give you an important message! You no longer have to be afraid!" The air rippled just off side of the crowd of Walsh supporters as they gasped, the cameras covering Walsh's speech shifting now to show the group fading out of thin air to join the party: a small group of bizarre, costumed individuals whose vaguely inhuman appearances suggested a deep series of mutations. There was a South Asian-looking man in a black jumpsuit whose limbs flexed and curled with unnatural flexibility, a green-skinned fellow in a brown fedora who seemed to be trying his hardest not to be seen, a stern-faced young woman wielding a whip curled around her hands, and the leader: a big, burly fellow with visible gills on the side of his neck. When he spoke, it was clear it was his raspy voice everyone had heard over the speakers.

"My name is Hammerhead! These are my colleagues; India Rubber, Whipside, and Mister M. We are, all of us, T-babies! Children of the invasion, blessed with powers that we intend to use for the betterment of the world! And we reject _any_ attempt to take those abilities from us because of where they came from! Have we no rights as citizens? As heroes?" He gestured to the crowd of students behind him, obviously skilled at playing to the crowd. "Are we so threatening to you because of what we are? We have taken a stand together to not be bullied! To fight for justice, and to protect a world that fears and hates us. When we pull people from a burning building, they don't care that we have been changed by Terminus radiation! They care only about what's in our hearts!"

A lesser politician would have deployed the police brigade obviously ready to move in on the intruders, but Aaron Walsh was a very good politician. Setting aside his microphone, he spoke in a voice that cracked over the murmuring crowd. "I'm sure your intentions are admirable, Mr. 'Hammerhead', but not all of your fellow T-mutants are so fortunate. Let me remind you, my fellow Americans, that no one is talking about some barbaric fantasy of forcing medical treatment on the unwilling. This is America, if people choose to walk around looking like badly-disguised Grue marauders, they have that right. What we're talking about is saving people. Like the girl in Illinois who nearly broke her neck falling through the floor the first time her mass shunted away into entropic space, or the young man from Louisiana who will have to spend his entire life in a containment suit so he doesn't incinerate everything he touches with the Terminus energy his body is raddled with." From his view on the stage, Walsh looked fearlessly down at the gilled man beneath him, the crowd having parted to let the T-mutants very close to the stage.

"Are you so threatened by the idea that some people might not want to be like you?"

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Inclining her head toward Subito, Kat breathed an uneven breath and tried to squirm deeper inside her coat. Stealing glances away from the scene and toward Subito, she inched a little closer and considered speaking to him when Walsh's mic cut out. Kat had already taken a step toward the alley, her eyes frantic and darting, seeking out the cause.

She needn't look too hard; they seized the scene. Kat winced back at the sight of them, reached up a hand and touched her neck, making sure it was still smooth. Some T-Babies were like her, unmarred on the outside. But some had been born clearly strange, or transfigured in the middle of their lives by some esoteric trigger that drew out their mutations and couldn't be undone.

And there they were already, out there talking with the guy trying to bring the hammer down on their heads. Confronting him. She grimaced at the thought, turned and finished her walk through into the alley, where no one was paying too close attention. It took her all of seconds to put everything Katharine Shade away and slip into Warp.

A red slit opened in the air above the street and Warp plunged down, landing catlike on a lamp overlooking Walsh and the rally. "That's not what you'll do. No," she said, in the voice she used to cut through the din of the theater. "If we don't, you'll force us out of school instead. You'll push us out of our jobs instead. You'll have our names all line up in a little folder. You'll take our normal lives hostage."

"But you won't force us," Kat said in a voice that asked if it really mattered, eyebrows raised. "That would be barbaric."

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Hearing the hesitant start of Kat's walk, Subito had stiffened minutely as his mind buzzed with what she might want to talk about. '"Hey! Nice rally, huh?" "So what do you think about that guy's arguments?" "Don't worry Kat, most people don't think like him" "Great weather this time of year!"' he thought bitterly as he slumped against the wall, so expecting the steps to continue over to him that it came as a total surprise when the microphone's electronic squeak and brief whine sounded out!

He instantly leaped away from the wall, stepping quickly towards the alley and beginning "Okay, w-" before he heard and saw Kat dash ahead of him and disappear through a rent in the world. Slowing his pace, he walked quietly out of sight and transformed himself, the familiar golden light and smoke whirling around his body as he was changed into the vivid and resplendent El Heraldo once again! Taking to the air, the bearer of Puerto Rico's spirit listened glumly to the charged words that passed between Walsh and the new arrivals, frowning as he looked over the group of mutants that had grabbed the attention of both parties. Setting his jaw, he soared next to Warp in a trail of gold smoke with an apologetic glance, saying quietly "Couldn't just stand around Warp. Need to have someone neutral there too, I-I'm sorry". He wasn't going to try and argue with either side, but this looked horribly like the start of something dangerous, and not just to Walsh or the small group of T-babies.

Dropping out of the sky between the politician and his current opponents, Heraldo deftly drew the banner and stood it neatly in the frosty ground next to him, the colorful hero smiling warmly as he began speaking to both parties. he started with Hammerhead, Whipside, India Rubber and Mister M "Hi! I am El Heraldo, the vanguard of Puerto Rico, pleased to meet fellow defenders of the innocent. I am not someone mutated by the energy of the Terminus, nor am I affiliated with any groups or organizations of theirs. Neither," he said as he turned to Representative Walsh "am I opposed to them or any groups or organizations of theirs that don't conduct themselves with villainous action! So far both of you have been quite careful to use words in making your cases and letting your feelings and philosophies be known, but this seems to be going in a direction that's a little iffy to me." Standing next to the Banner between the mutants and the politician he said loudly and clearly "Hammerhead, if you and your comrades could please refrain from any violence against Mr. Walsh, that would be both welcome and a powerful aid to your cause." he raised a red-gloved hand as he added "Not that I think you will, but I've known men with more patience who snapped under less pressure."

Turning with a polite raise of his cap to the state rep., he added "And sir, if you're open to it, perhaps a reasoned debate with some of your fellow citizens here would do well to both allay fears and cool everyone's head. Well, as colder as they can get in January!" he added with a cheerful smile to the crowd. He very suddenly had the sinking feeling that was in over his head.

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Sam drifts through the crowds, eyes open for Tona. Thankfully, her grades were enough to rarely get the extra work, but she'd promised to keep her kinda-sorta girlfriend company. She wears a thick grey jacket and jeans, but she makes no secret of who and what she is. Samantha Vance is Kit, ward of Chicago's own Talia Vance, the now-unmasked Masque. Though few would recognize her, and she looks like a normal teenager, she has little doubt there're at least a couple AEGIS agents somewhere in the crowd making sure this doesn't become a super riot, and she wouldn't be surprised if one were keeping an eye on her right now. A registered 'recovering supervillain' at a cape-law protest is probably going to throw up some red flags.

She'd always had an interest in politics, though they'd rarely been relevant to her. Not a matter of liking them, mind; just the opposite. It turns out leaving an anarchic hellhole whose only semblance of government was imposed by one of the most monstrous and unstoppable individuals she'd ever heard of, only to be raised by the world's greatest thief? It leaves one slightly distrustful of organized government. The Man, as it were. She listens to Walsh, and she can't say that he's a bad guy, or even an idiot. His heart's probably in the right place, sure, but he's just... wrong, and all these rules and laws and mobs are just giving him tools to force that wrong on everyone else.

She finally spots Tona as the T-babies show themselves. She still zips over to her side all the same, but her attention's on the meeting clearly destined to end well. It's at the first lull she finally manages a quick, "Hey, Tona," and a peck on the cheek before the show keeps rolling, with a rather familiar red portal. Katharine Shade, trying to pick a fight. "Three cheers for diplomacy," she says wryly. And then, El Heraldo. At that, all Sam can do is bury her face in her hands and shake her head, trying not to laugh. The circus has come to town. You don't say, 'Please don't start randomly killing people,' if you want to endear yourself.

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Walsh moved quickly and efficiently to take back control of the rally, shaking Heraldo's hand with a solid grip for a man so old and with a firm, ready smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you, young man. I've heard a lot about you from my colleague Sra. Fonelladas!" He put his arm around Heraldo's shoulder and waved as the cameras flashed, smelling faintly of an expensive cologne. Despite the close proximity of potential super-terrorists and the media, the Congressman wasn't so much as sweating. "You know how you can help me right now?" he went on, walking Heraldo off the stage in such a way that would make the defender of Puerto Rico get into a shoving match with a much older elected official if he resisted. "There are a lot of civilians and police officers down there who could use a superpowered backup right now," he said, pointing to the crowd of spectators who were watching the discussion intently, and not without some hostility. "We don't want this to get ugly."

When that was done, he turned back to Warp and offered her his hand. His eyes and voice were gentle but firm, his manner paternal. "It's nice to meet you, young lady. Come down and join us, won't you? I heard you go by Warp. My name is Aaron. What's yours?"

"She doesn't have to answer your questions!" barked Hammerhead, waving a meaty finger in Walsh's direction. Walsh faced him down fearlessly as they squared off. "There is nothing wrong with a super-person taking a super-identity! Especially if they're part of a feared and hated minority like T-babies!"

"That's such an ugly word, don't you think?" replied Walsh suddenly. "T-Babies." He faced the crowd, but didn't take his attention off Kat either. "These are our children, my friends. Our sons, our daughters, and though they may have been tragically altered by the Terminus they are not the children of Omega. My friend here would have you believe we should abandon them. Abandon our responsibility to the victims of the invasion, and cast them to the winds of fate and mutation." Up close, Warp and Heraldo had both been able to see that famous scar along one side of the Congressman's face, the wound along his jawline that stretched up into hair permanently white. "I say, never. This is Freedom City. We will never turn our backs on our people."

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She had to hand it to him, the guy had balls to go ahead and ask what a superhero's name was. Kat allowed a surreptitious glance around. There were a lot of people watching, and for now it seemed they were content to be spectators. But Kat remembered all too well their chanting; no more Terminus. They were waiting for the T-babies to screw up, she could feel it. Nah, they wanted it. Look at how dangerous the Terminus was, listen to the reasonable man with the thick-rimmed glasses. Warp wasn't going to be the one to bungle it all up and let that happen.

It was like it always was in front of a crowd; the tension melted away. There was what she had to do, and that was the end of it. She slipped off her perch and landed softly, soundlessly on the pavement. Standing next to Walsh Kat looked very small. She felt very small. "You know that's not a fair question, Mr. Walsh." A hint of reproach. "I'm not the only person my secret identity keeps safe." Family, friends and more, it went without saying. Remind them why secret identities were important. Warp took Walsh's outstretched hand; what else was she supposed to do?

Give them a show, move their hearts. "If you were just offering a choice I might not mind it. But that's not what you're doing. Someone takes your mystery cure and everything is right as rain, but the ones who don't?" She shook her head sadly. "How can it be a fair choice if the only other option is being treated like a criminal?"

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Tona smiled as her friend sidled up alongside her. This day was looking to be boring, but at least she didn't have be bored alone. And the kiss warmed her through and through.

At least, it seemed like it was going to be boring until a group of garishly dressed people popped onto the stage. From their words, Tona assumed they were heroes, or at least trying to be. And then Warp and El Herald jumped up there, and the whole situation seemed to get much more tense.

Except it wasn't. Or at least Walsh didn't seem too worries about a half-dozen very powerful individuals who weren't very happy with him. Tona found herself admiring the politician's courage, even if his words didn't reflect her own feelings on the matter.

She looked at Sam. "Think I should give him a native's view of T-Babies," she asked, "or can Warp handle it?"

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Several quite creative Welsh curses sprung to mind when her two friends decided to join in defending T-Babies. Unfortunately that would have broken character so she kept such thoughts to herself. It also stopped her getting a good reading on the other on the stage, she suspected that Walsh truly believed what he saying, even if his views were misguided. The "heroes" however she couldn't yet read, but she strongly suspected they weren't on the level.


She rapidly considered her options. Appearing in costume would be a bad idea, it's dark colours and glowing green lenses would probably cause more harm than good. She also considered playing cop, there was enough police around she could move around unchallenged, but she didn't have the right badge if she did get challenged. No her reporter identity would have to do, and luckily there was a gaggle of reporters getting as close to the story as they could.


She slip almost unnoticed through the crowd until she was as near the front as she could, near enough to be in earshot. With Heraldo being carefully shunted off to the side-lines she took a chance to get his attention calling out in her native Welsh.


<"Heraldo it's me Blodeuwedd. Why don't you come her and grant Gwen and interview.">

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"Yes but-" Heraldo began, flustered by Walsh's adept movement of the young paragon from the stage onto the frozen ground. He was taken quite off-guard and wasn't exactly itching to start a fight with an unpowered middle-aged politician in the middle of a rally, and so irritably kept quite besides a terse "Glad to help sir." as he was directed by the state rep. to go guard the Freedonians not currently staring down a quintet of T-babies. He adjusted his hat with a vicious tug as Walsh returned to his soap box, sheathing the Banner on his back 'Thank God I grabbed this, would have looked awkward if I'd had to go back for it'. Gritting his teeth he realized 'DAMNIT, I probably just made the situation WORSE! How is that possib-oh right. Well at least I did not have to point that out'.

He set out irritably for the densest of the clusters of steaming Freedonians huddled together despite their winter clothes, and was wondering what he should do now when he heard Blodeuwedd's voice rising above the throng. Changing course as subtly as he could while dressed in an archaic costume that had most of the primary colors and carrying a flagpole, Heraldo strode across the frozen earth over to where Gwen stood. Folding his arms behind his back and smiling politely he said to the young woman "Hello, Gwen. Did you want to ask me something? I'm afraid my knowledge about this situation is very limited." With a burst of steam from his lips he pushed his hat higher up, winking cheerfully at Cerys.

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Sam looks to Tona, then the scene around the stage, and back. "That sounds like a bad idea. Trust me, getting involved in political stuff like this doesn't end well. The best you're gonna get is a headache." That, and she doesn't want to see anyone get their claws in Tona and drag her name in the mud all over the place, even if she doesn't supply quite as much ammo for that sort of thing as Sam has to worry about. Then again, she wouldn't want to see the evening news arguing over whether or not Blue Jay is actually a Terminus spy (not that she watches the evening news).

"Let's just stay out of it for now. They'll probably talk themselves out eventually and nobody's minds'll change. Either that, or there's going to be a riot. Maybe 'cuz of a conspiracy. Which would make this a pretty normal Tuesday, really." She lets her oh-so-cheerful idle ramblings trail off, having gotten herself interested in the proceedings again.

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Most politicians would have started to get uncomfortable with all the powered people on stage who didn't like him much, but Aaron Walsh so far stood as patiently as a rock. He reassured Warp, and the crowd, with, "Genetic discrimination has been illegal in this country since 2009. We don't lock people up in America because of a birth defect."

"How dare you!" interjected Hammerhead. Standing this close, Warp could see that Hammerhead and the rest of his T-baby gang weren't that old. Even Mr. M, the oldest of them, didn't look like he was much older than Kat herself. "How dare you call our gifts defects! I'll have you know we are all superheroes! India Rubber here just saved a little boy from a burning building in the South Side last week, and I myself fought in the Deep One invasion! You're nothing but a small man who wants to pull the rest of us down to your level with your little mind games about Terminus powers!"

"Son, for you to be above me, I'd have to be beneath you," said Walsh levelly, his voice beginning to sharpen ever so slightly, like a knife being drawn. "Is that you think your powers do? Put you above normal people? Are you really standing here, in Freedom City, telling these people that your costume and your superpowers make you their better? Because I met the Centurion, 'Hammerhead', and I don't think he'd approve."

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Blodeuwedd gave a little proper friendly smile after all today she was Gwen and friendly helpful reporter.

<â€This is a bloody mess; it’s an inch from a full blown riot.â€> despite her irritation she kept her voice calm <â€I know Walsh is on the level, however misguided he is, but apart from Warp I don’t know any of the other people up there, do you?â€>

She could name almost every Fae clan and all there twisted sets of alliances, but she hadn’t yet gotten to know every superhero and villain in this city. It didn’t help that they seemed to pop up regularly like weeds.

<â€And keep an eye out for trouble, try to keep Warp safe and Walsh to we don’t want a martyr to make thing worse.â€>

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Heraldo's smile wavered, and he nodded quietly at Blodeuwedd's assessment. The initial warm, fuzzy, fluttering feeling of being around Cerys quickly fading as cold reality set in.Taking off his hat and spinning it on one finger he said irritably and in a low voice "It's like he wants them to get mad. And no, no idea who Hammerhead and the others are, sorry," he admitted wryly, his smile turning apologetic at 'Gwen's question "but either they're lying very convincingly" he hazarded, glancing back at the growing tensions at the stage "or else at least a few people here know them. Otherwise there'd be a lot more folks accusing them of being fakes."

"Every hero here is committed to the safety of this city, no matter where our powers come from" he added more loudly with a brilliant grin, for the benefit of those nearby.

More quietly he went on determinedly "I'll do what I can, princess. You know Warp, it'll take a lot to make her snap, but Walsh is pushing all the buttons he can right now. I can at least get the state rep out of danger, if he gets those guys mad enough." the stocky and resplendently-dressed teen smiled warmly at the reporter lady "I'm sure you can handle at least one of them yourself. Blue Jay and Kit are here too, we can stop things if they get out of hand. See you Blodeu, I'll keep an ear out for you if you've got anything." He shook her hand strongly and began to walk over to the crowd's edge, just close enough to the stage that he could zoom into action if need be.

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Tona shook her head as she watched El Heraldo and Warp try to stop a brawl from breaking out on stage. "Hold my things," she told Sam, handing the other girl the notebook and pen. "Someone's got to give these folks some perspective." Tone retreated further into the alley and pulled off the messenger bag she'd taken to wearing everywhere. Inside was a tightly rolled Claremont jacket that she pulled over her long-sleeved shirt, a mask that settled easily on her face, and her bow and quiver all rolled up for maximum storage.

In a few moments Blue Jay was standing there, and in another few moments Blue Jay was scaling a fire escape up a nearby building. Soon after she was standing on top of the building, bow in hand, leaning on the lip of the roof. She raised her fingers to her mouth and produced an ear-splitting whistle her father had taught her, which cut easily through the distance and the wind and the talking on stage. "Congressman Walsh! Heroes and citizens of Freedom City! I want to tell you something. I... am a survivor of the Terminus.

"I was born there, raised there, and had the great good luck to escape to this happier place. I'm learning, slowly, how to live here and how precious life can be. I'm learning to defend it, all of it! And so Congressman Walsh, as a citizen of both Freedom City and the Terminus I cannot support your plan to register the Terminus mutants."

In one smooth motion she'd drawn an arrow and nocked it. "It doesn't go far enough. No one will ever be truly safe as long as the stain of the Terminus is on this planet." And she loosed, straight towards Whiplash's heart. The arrow went through Whiplash's chest and pinned the young woman to the wall behind her, eyes rolling back in her head and bleeding from the mouth as she died on television before a horrified crowd.

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As the crowd screamed in horror at the sight of a hero gone mad, suddenly there was a puff of smoke in the air in front of what was now the T-baby trio and a very familiar face appeared. Dorothy Langford was in black and red these days, having been expelled from Claremont and dropped off the radar, her new uniform cut like military fatigues. The girl raised her head and pointed at Blue Jay, calling out to the T-babies behind her. "Look what she did! She's a genocidal lunatic, just like all these psycho mundanes! They can't kill us without a fight! Come on, T-babies, I'm with you! It's time for vengeance!" And with a malevolent leer, she pointed to Warp. "I call dibs on the Judas goat who set us up to die!"

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Blue Jay drew and nocked again almost immediately. "Heraldo," she called over to the stage. "I'm sorry you had to get caught up in this, but it was inevitable. You're standing with the Terminus, so you shall die with the Terminus." She paused and added, "And yourself, Congressman Walsh. Maybe a few more scars will show you how serious you have be about these monsters."

The young archer loosed, drew, and loosed again in smooth rhythm. Arrow after arrow pelted the stage, coming down among the heroes, Walsh, his security detail, and even the crowd pressing up against the platform. Jay claimed to be there to destroy the T-Baby menace, but she certainly didn't seem very discriminating with her firepower!

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The arrows rose and fell like rain, except this was rain where people died. In the crowd in front, razor-tipped steel shafts impaled a half-dozen policemen, spectators, and citizens, instantly killing the two cops closest to the stage and a previously-cheering middle-aged man in a Croatian-American T-shirt. If Walsh had been like most politicians, even more of the cops would have died because the bombardment was far worse on stage. An arrow passed through Congressman Walsh's chest and pinned him against the podium without a sound as he looked with wide eyes on the blood staining his white lapels; another hit the lurking Mr. M and knocked him right off the stage with an shaft in the stomach, while sharp-bladed bolts tore at the arms and legs of Hammerhead, only India Rubber's flexible body saving him from serious harm. Only Quickstep was unhurt of the T-babies, shouting her defiance as arrows vanished into teleport gateways before her, going who knew where. "Hah-hah! You won't get me, murderer!" she called. A moment later, just as the crowd began to panic, something unexpected happened.

Congressman Walsh's only son, David, had been in and out of the news for involvement in his father's political campaigns and the public relationship with a leading flute player in the Freedom City orchestra. Dave was by all accounts the sort of blandly handsome, spoiled albeit well-meaning scion of power that came a dime a dozen to young men born to Washington stock. The father's character had not been inherited. Other things had, though. "Dad, NO!" Suddenly a surge of great golden light erupted from the younger Walsh's body, and the suited man rose up out of the crowd like an avenging angel! He didn't target any of the combatants, though, instead swooping down on his father at the podium. He gestured wildly and summoned a glowing pair of giant yellow hands that scooped up Walsh and the podium alike and the assembly of father, son, and debris began rising quickly in the air and towards the newly constructed St. Mark's hospital just down the street. Almost lost in the crowd came the startled exclamation of a security officer holding a radiation meter off in the corner, "Why, he's a T-baby!"

It might have been a big story on any other day.

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Sam merely looks confused when Tona hands her the small pile of stuff. "Perspective?" she asks, with a blink. But she doesn't follow. If Tona's about to get involved in politics, it's a bad idea, but it's not her place to get in the way. So, she waits, and as Tona starts talking, everything about it seems wrong. She never talked about her home like that. She recognizes it for what it is, but she still speaks of it like home, a place she loves. Not some trash she escaped and left behind. And what's this about-


Sam's eyes go wide, and a dozen more arrows land.

Her mind races, ending in one place. This isn't like Fox. That's not Tona. She needs an assumption about what happened, and in her limited experience, it must be magic. She's only seen mind control and magically induced madness from demons, after all, and that alone is enough for her to come up with a plan.

She runs, making a dash for Cerys, not caring for civilian identities or disguises at the moment. Besides that, Cerys is the only one here who she knows full well'll realize that's not Tona. "Find the magic doing that to Tona," she barks, barely slowing down, and adding vague hand gestures to grant no more clarity to the statement, "And break it."

But she doesn't stop for questions, instead diving into the shadows of the nearest alley, emerging in the shade of the roof access of Tona's building, hiding herself in the cover while she regains her bearings, plans her approach, and works up the nerve to talk to her girlfriend. Or the forces controlling her.

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"You won't get me that easy, murderer! T-babies forever!" yelled Hammerhead in solidarity with the dodging, taunting Quickstep as he charged for Blue Jay, but the lumbering piscine T-baby was unable to catch the fleet-footed archer despite his sharp jagged teeth and reaching thick, muscular arms. He smelled of fish and blood, an unpleasant scent at any time but particularly not when Warp was caught in murderous mayhem and Blue Jay was just trying to get by and do her thing. He was yelling something, but the panicking, screaming crowd wasn't listening, and he was impossible to hear if you weren't on the stage. He was charging the bad guy without hesitating, but hadn't looked at his badly injured team: brave though he was, Hammerhead was obviously not the kind of leader you went to Claremont to become.

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For a few second Blodeuwedd could only watch in mute horror as event's unfolded around her. But it didn't take long until her training kicked in and she was propelled into action. Grabbing her bag with a simple elegance she drew Dyrnwyn and in the same movement threw the bag to Subito.


"Kit's right, but you can cover more ground, the goggles are in a compartment in the base. She looked up at the stage, and tried to catch Warp's eye's "I don't know or care where your loyalties lie Warp, but there are injured down her and you're the best person to get them to help."


Then with a sudden movement she was off, weaving through the crowd and then with a few bound she was on the roof before Tona. She adopted an defensive posture, but she kept Dyrnwyn behind her in a non-offensive stance.


"Tona it's me Blod, Cerys. You know me and my option of all this, remember what me and Sam were going to do for you. But this is the wrong way about it, you’ve got to stop this now before more people get hurt. Don't make me have to fight you."


She kept her tone even and calming, despite how she felt inside.

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